The Montalcino Commune

The commune is made up of four urban centers: Montalcino, San Angelo in Colle, Castelnuovo dell’Abate and Torrenieri. The top producers in the Montalcino area have vineyards on both slopes, and produce a blend of both styles

Montalcino

In 1831, the Marchese Cosimo Ridolfi, praised the red wines produced in Montalcino, and Brunello records, date back to the 14th century. But it wasn’t until 1865 that Brunello took the spotlight, when it was the “select red wine” and prize winner at the Montalcino’s agricultural fair. Around this time, Clemente Santi isolated certain plantings of Sangiovese with the intent of producing an age worthy wine, and in 1898, his grandson Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, released the first version of Brunello as we know it today, after having aged the wine in large wood barrels for ten years. It was the 1888 vintage, followed by the 1891, 1925 and 1945. By the time we reached the 60’s there were less than a dozen producers of Brunello and in 1968 the DOCG status was awarded to the area.

Red wines produced in Montalcino
As with all of the Northern Hemisphere, the northern slopes in Montalcino, receive fewer hours of sunlight and are generally cooler than the southern slopes. Vineyards planted on the northern slopes ripen slowly and tend to produce wines that are racier and more aromatic. Vineyards on the southern and western slopes receive more intense exposure to sunlight and maritime winds, producing wines with more power and complexity.

Montalcino  is only 10 miles in diameter and the variations in altitude and soil composition, vary throughout its sub-regions.

Montalcino has the warmest and driest climate in Tuscany, with its grapes ripening up to a week earlier than the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the Chianti Classico. Montalcino climate is the most arid Tuscan DOCG, with an average annual rainfall of around 700 mm, in contrast to the Chianti region averaging 900 mm.

The Northeast by the town of Torrenieri, has heavy clay soils not conducive to growing the finest fruit, but good quality fruit can be grown on hillsides with good drainage.

The Northwest is heavily forested with cool temperatures at risk of spring frosts and fungal diseases; it has clay, sandstone and schist soils. Yet Silvio Nardi with a winery established in the 50’s and Castiglion del Bosco, that has spared no expense to produce high quality wines aged in French barriques.

Central Montalcino is home to the majority of Brunello’s producers, including most of Brunello’s original vineyards and many of its famous estates, including Biondi Santi, Costanti, Fattoria dei Barbi, and Valdicava. Average altitudes are the highest of the appellation. Poggio Antico, located just south of the town, has one of the highest vineyards at 480 m, although most estates have vineyards at varying altitudes. Soils north and south of the town are varied with sandstone, shale, lime- stone, marl and galestro being most common. Costanti’s vineyards just east of the city has a high percentage of marl (a mix of clay and calcareous rock) at higher elevations, but as one moves downhill sand and clay take over.

The high altitude and low temperatures lead to slow ripening that producing phenolic ripeness in all but the coolest vintages (e.g., 2002) and avoids over-ripeness in all but the hottest vintages (e.g., 2003). The cool climate and high diurnal temperature variations help the fruit retain acidity. As a result, this sub-region produces Brunellos that are especially long-lived and elegant.
Altitudes decline as one goes north in the direction of Buonconvento, and superb Brunellos are made in the north by wineries like Capanna, Caparzo and Donatella Cinelli Colombini. Of special significance are the Altesino and Le Gode north facing vineyards on Montosoli, a 450 m, marl and clay hill north of Montalcino.

The Southeast around Castelnuovo dell’Abate, has proved to be an excellent location for growing Sangiovese. Several traditional wineries in the Montalcino sub-region have purchased vineyards here, mostly in the vicinity of the 12th century Abbey of Sant’Antimo. Temperatures are warmer than Central Montalcino, evening breezes make their way up the Orcia River valley from the sea to provide goad diurnal variation, allowing the fruit to retain acidity and freshness. Vineyards have varying mixes of marl, shale, sandstone and clay soils and are planted at relatively high altitudes (up to 450 m), although some are as low as 150 m. Mastrojanni, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, and Uccelliera are some of the best known wineries of this area.

The Southwest a few kilometers from the town, in Tavernelle, there are vineyards of relatively high altitude with good soils of lime- stone, clay and sand. Daytime temperatures are warm but cool rapidly in the evening, providing the diurnal variation required for good acidity and freshness. Angelo Gaja’s Pieve Santa Restituta is located here. Proceeding further to the southwest, one finds higher average temperatures, less rainfall, and a more varied set of vineyards in Camigliano and Sant’ Angelo in Colle. The soils range fram sand and clay near the river in Sant’Angelo Scala to calcareous soils at higher elevations. The producers here include the largest of the appellation: Banfi, Frescobaldi’s Castel Giocondo, Col d’ Orcia, and II Poggione. Each of these producers has vineyards of varying altitudes (150 – 400 m) and soils. Banfi has identified 27 different soil types on its estate alone. The warmer temperatures and faster ripening of this area can in some vintages produce wines with lower acidity and higher alcohol than the wines of central Montalcino. In cool vintages with autumn rains like 2002 the warmth and early harvesting of this sub-region allow it to still produce good quality wines, while fruit can dessiccate and wines can suffer in especially hot years. Compared to the wines of Central Montalcino, wines from this region are generally regarded as more accessible early on.


Since 1945, the “five-star vintages” have been the following: 1945, 1955, 1964, 1970, 1975, 1987, 1988, 1990,1995, 1997, 2004, 2006, 2007,2010,2012,2015,2016

Source: International Wine ReviewConsorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino and Wikipedia. Pictures are  © CONSORZIO del VINO BRUNELLO and WINEDINEGUIDE®

Biodynamic Farming and Viticulture

A holistic and mystical approach to farming, when the entire estate becomes a self-sustaining, self-regulating ecosystem

Green farming spans from sustainable, to organic and to the more holistic biodynamic approach.
Biodynamic farmers also follow the natural rhythms of the earth and the moon’s lunar phases to increase the “life force” of the soil and, thus, create a wine that is completely authentic to the site

Grape growers who have adopted biodynamic methods noted stronger, clearer and more vibrant tastes, as well as wines that remain drinkable longer.

A Biodynamic Farm Is a Living Organism. Each biodynamic farm or garden is an integrated, whole, living organism. This organism is made up of many interdependent elements: fields, forests, plants, animals, soils, compost, people, and the spirit of the place.

Biodynamic wines are more floral, biodynamic producers also note that their methods tend to result in better balance in growth, where the sugar production in the grapes coincides with physiological ripeness, resulting in a wine with the correct balance of flavor and alcohol content, even with changing climate conditions. In a blind tasting of 10 pairs of biodynamic and conventionally-made wines, conducted by Fortune and judged by seven wine experts including a Master of Wine and head sommelier, nine of the biodynamic wines were judged superior to their conventional counterpart. The biodynamic wines “were found to have better expressions of terroir, the way in which a wine can represent its specific place of origin in its aroma, flavor, and texture. The movement toward green practices and organics, has been steadily increasing in all realms of agriculture, and in the wine industry.

INTEGRATED VITICULTURE
Also known as sustainable farming, this is the least stringent area of “green farming” and the most widespread. Here a wide variety of agricultural practices are used which are ecologically sound but are also economically viable. Farmers have more flexibility and will generally recycle, conserve water, use renewable resources, and minimize the use of chemical products, but chemical products can, in fact, be used in sustainable farming.

ORGANIC VITICULTURE
Organic farming is similar to sustainable (or integrated) in striving to conserve soil and water and use renewable resources, but it has some important additional rules and regulations. Organic farming prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and chemical-based fertilizers around all crops. Here all produce is high in nutrition, obtained with minimal use of auxiliary energy, and based on cultivation technology which has a minimal affect on the environment. There are many degrees of certified organic throughout the world, varying again by nation and by region.

BIODYNAMIC VITICULTURE
Biodynamic farming is the most complicated philosophy of “green farming”. It is more of a holistic and mystical approach to farming, in which the entire wine estate becomes a self-sustaining, self-regulating ecosystem. Biodynamic treats “the farm as a living organism which is connected to the dynamic rhythms of the earth and atmosphere, working with the living soil and the invisible energies of nature”. Similar to organic farming, biodynamic farming eliminates all chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Biodynamic farmers also follow the natural rhythms of the earth and the moon’s lunar phases to increase the “life force” of the soil and, thus, create a wine that is completely authentic to the site. The needs of the farm are met completely from within; using 100% recycled organic waste, along with incorporation of various indigenous vegetation and prey/predator animals to make the estate complete.

Grape growers who have adopted biodynamic methods noted stronger, clearer and more vibrant tastes, as well as wines that remain drinkable longer.

Biodynamic wines are more floral, biodynamic producers also note that their methods tend to result in better balance in growth, where the sugar production in the grapes coincides with physiological ripeness, resulting in a wine with the correct balance of flavor and alcohol content, even with changing climate conditions. In a blind tasting of 10 pairs of biodynamic and conventionally-made wines, conducted by Fortune and judged by seven wine experts including a Master of Wine and head sommelier, nine of the biodynamic wines were judged superior to their conventional counterpart. The biodynamic wines “were found to have better expressions of terroir, the way in which a wine can represent its specific place of origin in its aroma, flavor, and texture.

The Demeter Biodynamic® Farm and Processing Standards

The Standard protects against manipulation of the Biodynamic agricultural ingredients as much as possible to allow for their integrity to define the product. Products must contain significant and verifiable Biodynamic ingredients to be allowed to use the term Biodynamic on product packaging and labeling, in order not to mislead consumers.

Sources: Wikipedia, FortuneBiodynamic Association

Barolo DOCG – The Grand Crus

Barolo DOCG, produced from Nebbiolo grapes, comes from the province of Cuneo in Piedmont

Eleven communes with 500 plus members, make up the Barolo area: Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Serralunga d’Alba and some parts of the communes of Cherasco, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, Novello, Roddi and Verduno.

The Vine

The Nebbiolo vine requires a south or southwest-facing hillside, for the right formation of tannins and an altitude of between 650 and 1,500 feet above sea level, where spring frosts rarely occur. The vine buds in mid April and ripens around the middle of October. Nebbiolo is the oldest indigenous red-grape vine of Piedmont. Nebbiolo derives from “nebbia”, Italian for fog.

The Wine

Barolo is required by DOCG regulations, to age for a total of 38 months, includes 18 months in wood, starting on November first. If Barolo is aged for 62 months, includes 18 months in wood, it’s called Barolo Riserva. Barolo cannot be made available to the consumer prior to January first of the fourth year of its harvest, while for  Barolo Riserva its the sixth year from its harvest, again after January first.

The color of Barolo is an intense garnet red with fruity and spicy perfumes. Red berries, cherries, roses, violets, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, vanilla and at times, licorice, cocoa, tobacco and leather, are present both in the nose and in the mouth.

In the mid 19th century, Barolo was a sweet wine, because it was a late harvest grape

But the mayor of Grinzane Cavour, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, a municipality in the Province of Cuneo summoned Louis Oudart, French enologist to the region to enhance winemaking procedures. Oudart was able to ferment the Nebbiolo must completely dry; the maceration and fermentation process took around three weeks. Today fruitier, earlier drinking wines are preferred and winemakers have decreased fermentation times hence creating earlier drinkable wines.

The Barolo area is divided into east and west

The Central Valley to the east is made up of Tortonian soil that creates more approachable wines characterized by rose and violet fragrances with a distinguished softness and elegance and the Serralunga Valley to the west, consists of Helvetian soil which generally creates long lived, powerfully concentrated wines that mature slowly.

The Tortonian soil is darker in color with compact calcareous marl mixed with sand and rich in magnesium and manganese. The  Helvetian soil is lighter in color with looser calcareous marl soil, less fertile and rich in iron and phosphorous.

A listing of the Barolo Communes and the Vineyards where the Barolo Grand Crus are produced

Barolo

Albarella, Bergeisa, Boschetti, Bricco delle Viole, Bricco San Giovanni, Brunate, Cannubi, Cannubi Boschis, Cannubi Muscatel, Cannubi San Lorenzo, Cannubi Valletta, Castellero, Cerequio, Coste di Rose, Coste di Vergne, Crosia Druca’,  Fossati, La Volta, Le Coste, Liste, Monrobiolo di Bussia, Paiagallo, Preda, Ravera, Rivassi, Rue’, San Lorenzo, San Pietro, San Ponzio, Sarmassa, Terlo, Vignane, Zoccolaio, Zonchetta, Zuncai.

Castiglione Falletto

Altenasso, Garblet Sue’, Garbelletto Superiore, Bricco Boschis, Bricco Rocche, Bricco Vigna Mirasole, Brunella, Codana, Fiasco, Mariondino, Monriondino or Rocche Moriondino, Monprivato, Montanello, Parussi, Pernanno, Pianta’, Pira, Pugnane, Rocche di Castiglione, Scarrone, Solanotto, Valentino, Vignolo, Villero.

La Morra

Annunziata, Arborina, Ascheri, Berri, Bettolotti, Boiolo, Brandini, Bricco Chiesa, Bricco Cogni, Bricco Luciani, Bricco Manescotto, Bricco Manzoni, Bricco Rocca, Bricco San Biagio, Brunate, Capalot, Case Nere, Castagni, Cerequio, Ciocchini, Conca, Fossati, Galina, Gattera, Giachini, La Serra, Rive, Rocche dell’Annunziata, Rocchettevino, Roere di Santa Maria, Roggeri, Roncaglie, San Giacomo, Santa Maria, Sant’Anna, Serra dei Turchi, Serradenari, Silio, Torriglione.

Monforte d’Alba

Bricco San Pietro, Bussi,a Castelletto, Ginestra, Gramolere, Le Coste di Monforte, Mosconi, Perno, Ravera di Monforte, Rocche di Castiglione, San Giovanni

Serralunga d’Alba

Arione, Badarina, Baudana, Boscareto, Brea, Bricco Voghera, Briccolina, Broglio, Cappallotto, Carpegna, Cerrati, Cerretta, Collaretto, Colombaro, Costabella, Damiano, Falletto, Fontanafredda, Francia, Gabutti, Gianetto, Lazzarito, Le Turne, Lirano, Manocino, Marenca, Margheria, Meriame, Ornato, Parafada, Prabon, Prapo’, Rivette, San Bernardo, San Rocco, Serra, Teodoro, Vignarionda.